Strep behind cheerleader’s sudden death: 'This used to be something nobody knew about’

Strep behind cheerleader’s sudden death: 'This used to be something nobody knew about’
Courtesy DWCphoto.com (Source: Courtesy DWCphoto.com)

CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) - The family of Lilliana Schalck has revealed the results of their daughter’s autopsy. It turns out the cheerleader, who died suddenly at a competition in Columbus back in February, had underlying strep.

They didn’t know she had it. In fact, the last time she had strep was four to six years ago. But in February, that strep lead to sepsis, or blood poisoning, which quickly took her life.

The family released a statement, which reads in part: “Apparently an underlying strep infection overwhelmed her immune system with little or no warning, and (resulted in) catastrophic results.”

Dr. Riham Alwan at the Christ Hospital says there’s a reason they call strep leading to sepsis the silent killer.

“It moves very, very, very, very fast. This used to be something nobody knew about," said Alwan.

According to the National Institute of Health, severe sepsis strikes more than 1 million Americans every year.

In Lilliana’s case, her father told FOX19 in February that his little girl was fine until her coach approached him at the competition in Columbus, worried.

“She’s kinda out of sorts, things definitely not normal, so we call a life squad took her to the ER and things quickly degraded," he said. “We went from waiting for her to perform at 5:50 to holding her hand and they announced that she had passed at 7:40.”

According to the CDC, common symptoms of sepsis include confusion or disorientation, shortness of breath, high heart rate, fever of shivering, extreme pain or discomfort, clammy or sweaty skin.

“Her symptoms -- some hamstring pain, numbness in her hands, they were cold, and she just felt weak," said Dan Schalck.

Alwan says many of these symptoms are also common in other conditions, making it difficult to diagnose, especially in its early stages -- and it’s not just in the throat.

“It depends on where the strep is,” the doctor said. “So, the most common things in a young, healthy person is either the urine or the blood, or in the spinal cord, but usually, in a young, healthy person, unless they have a cut on their skin, that would have brought it into their blood, it would probably be the urine, especially in a female.”

Dan Schalck says Lilliana was treated for strep several years ago, and every time her doctor saw her he syas she was “the picture of health.”

The family is still in shock. They say they’re forever heartbroken and appreciate the respect they’ve been shown so far. Their full statement can be read below.

We would first like to express our utmost appreciation for the outpouring of love and support from her friends, teachers, coaches, and administrators at Highlands Middle and High Schools, her extended family at Premier Athletics, plus the entire cheer community across this whole country, and most of all the good people of Fort Thomas. We are so thankful, and honestly overwhelmed, by those that have reached out and continue to find new ways to support Lilliana's memory on an almost daily basis.

Apparently, an underlying Strep infection overwhelmed her immune system with little or no warning, and catastrophic results. We knew this report was coming and honestly have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand it changes nothing for us. But, on the other hand, we wouldn't wish this nightmare on anyone and maybe this report might help prevent a similar outcome for someone else. Lilliana would surely help if she could, and this is just an extension of that spirit.

We are still in shock as we navigate through the most difficult time imaginable-we find new 'Firsts' and 'Lasts' every day. We are forever heartbroken and appreciate the respect we have been given so far, and ask that to continue as we focus on her life and legacy, as well as our life without her - however unwelcome it is.

Sincerely,

The Schalck Family

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